While many car infotainment systems offer digital music playback and sat-nav, Bluetooth hands-free phone connection can often be a costly extra. So if you want to stay legal while taking calls behind the wheel, you need a hands-free kit.
To find the best, we paired 12 with an iPhone and assessed the clarity of reception and transmission over a city test route. We also wanted simple controls and the ability to make a phone call without touching the handset at any point. Here are our three top buys.
Winner: Jabra EasyGo
Easy to use and easy on your pocket, the EasyGo takes its second win on the trot. Not only was it one of the most comfortable kits to use, it was also one of the simplest to pair with our test phone and the sound along our city test route was crisp and clear. You get manual volume control, too, which allows for quick adjustment for ambient noise. Build quality could be better, but this is a great performer for £30.
If you don’t want to wear an earpiece, this device from Motorola is our pick of the clip-on speakerphones. The stylish casing means the TX500 won’t look out of place on your car’s sun visor and it’s simple to control, too, with big buttons and manual volume control. There are voice alerts for battery life and pairing status. As with our winner, some compromise is involved to get down to that price, but we can put up with the slightly tinny sound.
Our money-no-object choice among hands-free kits is well worth going for if you have the cash. The over-ear loop is comfortable and we liked the fuss-free set-up and control, with voice prompts to guide you through it. Jabra’s NoiseBlackout 3.0 plus HD Voice tech gave impeccable sound quality, both transmitting and receiving, even with the window open. This device is pricey, but delivers superb ambient noise reduction, so is well worth the extra cash.
Hands-free kits Q and A
Why won’t my phone pair with my car’s built-in hands-free kit?
The first thing to check is your phone’s software – compare which version you’re running with the manufacturer’s recommendation in the handbook. If your car isn’t compatible with your phone, ask your local dealer if there’s a software update for the car. Failing that, you’ll have to change your phone or find another way to take calls legally on the move – like the kits here.
I’ve seen aftermarket head units with Bluetooth. How do they work?
these aftermarket stereos replicate factory-fitted hands-free systems using Bluetooth to connect to your phone. Usually, a microphone on a cable is mounted on the A-pillar or above the steering column and the call is played through your car’s speaker system. Aftermarket set-ups can generally pair with more of the latest phones.